Just as your ways of relating to your grandchildren grow with them, so will the ways you use Skype. Almost anything that you do with your grandchildren in person can be adapted for video chat using Skype. You can even share a special occasion with your grandchildren when you're not able to be there in person.
If you are new to video calling, read about getting set up with Skype. Once you are set up, try these strategies.
You'll discover many more as you become more comfortable with video calling.
Alternatives to Skype
There are many VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) programs and apps besides Skype. Grandparents who use Apple products may want to try FaceTime for video calls with grandchildren. The principles outlined in this article will apply to all of them.
Using Skype With Infants
At first, you'll use Skype to watch your infant grandchildren. You'll be able to hear their cooing and crying and other vocalizations. If you have sent a special article of clothing, Skype allows you to see your grandchild wearing it before it is outgrown. You'll also enjoy watching the parents and siblings, if there are siblings, interact with the baby.
Using Skype With Toddlers
As much fun as it is to watch your infant grandchildren, you'll be even more thrilled when they become toddlers and are able to participate in the video call.
Develop a standard way of greeting them and saying goodbye. Blowing kisses or putting hands on the screen are meaningful gestures, especially when combined with a special verbal greeting. Allow them to show you a special toy, book or outfit. Older toddlers will enjoy it if you sing to them, especially if you choose a song with gestures, like "Itsy Bitsy Spider" or "I'm a Little Teapot." Finger play that you do together is also fun.
Be aware of toddlers' short attention spans, however. Often they will enter and leave the "picture" several times during a video chat. That gives you ample opportunity to chat with the parents. If the parents are on hand, they may have to occasionally "interpret" for you. Grandparents who don't see their grandchildren frequently may not be adept at understanding their speech, but Skyping can help.
Connecting With Preschoolers
As your grandchildren enter the preschool stage and begin to learn letters and numbers, let them share their knowledge with you, but don't pressure them to do so. No one likes to be put on the spot. They also will enjoy showing you the physical tricks they can do, such as jumping, skipping and catching a ball. If there are special songs or finger plays that you have enjoyed previously, don't assume that they have outgrown them. If you send a gift or care package, perhaps the parents will save it and let you watch them as they open it. It's also fun to see them wearing clothes that you have purchased or playing with toys that came from you.
Continue to "sign on" and "sign off" in the ways that you have developed.
Skype allows you to have the immense pleasure of witnessing your school-age grandchildren learning to read. Their attention span is likely to be short, but praise their efforts. If a grandchild has a favorite book, buy a copy so that you can read along, or alternate reading pages to each other. You'll also want to know the names of their teachers and friends so that you can follow their conversations. Make notes if you have to! Encourage your grandchildren to show you their artwork, projects and new toys.
Don't Drop the Ball With Tweens
As grandchildren enter the tween or preteen years, they may be less interested in communicating. It's up to you to have some topics for conversation in mind. Older tweens are likely to want to communicate by texting. That's why grandparents should learn to text. Video chats can be a good supplement to those communications, however. Your grandchildren can show you a trophy, model a new outfit or introduce you to a friend. Consider what you might share from your end. Show a piece of needlework that you've completed, or a remodeling project.
Staying in Touch With Teens
The good news about your teen grandchildren is that they are likely to be very comfortable with all kinds of technology. The bad news is that they are seldom at home! If you can get them on Skype, they are likely to wander in and out of the picture like their toddler counterparts, often accompanied by a friend or two. If you are able to get them online, it's helpful to have a topic in mind beforehand, such as a new movie that you know they've seen or the performance of their favorite sports team. If you are friends with them on Facebook, you'll probably pick up a lot about their activities that you can use as conversation starters, and you may meet many of their friends online. Many teenagers have their own computers, and you may be able to have private conversations with them, but never encourage them to "dish" on other members of the family. The same topics that are off-limits in person are also off-limits online. Give them a chance to share their successes, but don't pressure them on topics such as grades and plans for the future. Also don't comment on a messy room!
Those Almost-Grown Young Adults
Most of what works with teens also works with your young adult grandchildren. If you have grandchildren in college, you can see dorm rooms and meet roommates. Later you can see first apartments, pets, vehicles and sweethearts. Be enthusiastic and non-judgmental. After all, these are the individuals who may elevate you to great-grandparent status! Is there a better reason for keeping relationships close and cordial?
Don't Forget the Parents!
While you are Skyping with grandchildren, don't forget to show interest in your grandkid's parents as well. Asking about them first is one of the ways to nurture your relationship with your grown children.